An environmental policy is any agreed action undertaken to manage human activities whilst preventing any negative impact on the environment that such activities may have.
It is an agreed statement or set of principles that summarizes and guides an organisations objectives and targets towards the environment in which it may operate.
It sets environmental performance improvement targets intent on minimizing the detrimental impacts an organisation may have on the environment. The organisation must act according to its principles. Environmental issues that are generally the key focus of a policy include
• reduction in carbon footprint
• minimizing waste through waste management
• biodiversity protection, and
• the preservation and conservation of natural resources
Environmental policies are not limited to these examples but usually have similar targets.
Reviewing an environmental policy template is a key way to understand how to write a policy.
Environmental policies should cover and state an organization’s objectives towards environmental issues and ought to be included within the business strategy.
It is important that the policy is an integral part of the business, to maintain integrity; the policy should be endorsed actively by senior management and upheld by all staff.
It is credible and realistic and doesn’t make promises the organisation cannot keep. If a company is looking to obtain accreditation under ISO14001:2004 (the recognised standard for an Environmental Management System), your environmental policy will have to meet certain requirements, one of which is the inclusion of a commitment to improve your environmental performance, prevent pollution, and comply with environmental legislation.
Having an up to date policy and action plan is an increasingly common requirement for contract work, especially if an organisation is bidding for either governmental or large business contracts.
Having said this writing an environmental policy is a voluntary undertaking and the structure and content are not regulated under legislation.
There are no firm rules about how a policy should look or what it should refer to, it is essentially just a written statement of a firms approach to dealing with the environmental disturbance or hazards it may face or create but, to be effective, it should provide a framework for action and the setting of environmental objectives and targets.
This framework must be unambiguous and clear in order to be achieved in every section of the business. Such policies are not a necessity however shown in these examples usually have positive impacts on the image of a business.
Matt is an environmental and sustainability professional. He writes for the Sustainable Business Toolkit where you can find internationally compliant how to write an environmental policy guide, among other practical environmental information.